New York City Public Transportation:: MetroCard

I grew up in a town of about 7,000 people. I live in a town with less than 4,000 people. I think there is one taxi in a neighboring town. We don’t have a public bus system or a subway…except for Subway the restaurant! So, when I visit a big city, public transportation can be a little intimidating. When we got to New York, we took a taxi to our hotel because it was the easiest option that required the least amount of thinking. We knew, though, that we would be using the subway system because it was going to be the quickest and most cost effective option. We were only in New York City for 3 nights. I wasn’t sure which option was our best choice because I didn’t know how many times we would be riding. I thought it would be right around 13 rides and that is the number that makes the unlimited option more cost effective. In the end we decided that if we had the unlimited and then made a mistake that we wouldn’t have to worry about it. We made only one mistake that we weren’t able to “fix.” We went into an entrance that the train was heading south and we wanted to head north. We had done that before but were able to get to the other side of the track without exiting. At this location, we weren’t able to do that. We tried to leave and go to the other side but when we swiped we couldn’t get through. The screen read “Just Used.” I read later that you have to wait 18 minutes before using the card again. I suppose that keeps people from sharing a card. We ended up walking that one! By our last day, we were even able to take the subway to a bus transfer (which was included in the cost of the MetroCard) and take the M60 bus to LaGuardia from Astoria. At least we saved the fee of the cab on the return to the airport as well, which would have been $20. We paid $31 each for the 7-Day Unlimited and a fee for a new card. If you are staying for 3 nights or more, I think that the Unlimited would be the way to go.



I copied this chart from here:


Ways to Save

Number of Rides Refill/Buy this Card Cost Your cost per ride
Fewer than 13 Pay-Per-Ride ($5.25 value with 5% bonus) $5


13 trips per week

20 trips per week

25 trips per week

7-Day Unlimited $30




48 trips per month

50 trips per month

60 trips per month

30-Day Unlimited $112




Express Bus Rider

5 days per week (10 rides)

7-Day Express Bus Plus $55


Occasional Express Bus Rider


($10.50 value with 5% Bonus)




Brookfield Zoo, Brookfield, IL

My bestie, Jamie, and I decided we would go to Brookfield Zoo with our families for Mother’s Day this year. Both of our families are fairly early risers and like to get moving in the morning so we figured we’d get an early start. We found out though that the zoo doesn’t open until 10:00 a.m. So, we decided to leave early anyway and stop for a late breakfast on the way up there. We stopped at Cracker Barrel at the Weber Road exit but found the wait was going to be 1-1 1/2 hours. So, we drove down the street to McDonald’s with a playland. The kids were quite pleased with the choice. We left there about 9:30 and arrived at Brookfield Zoo at 10:00.

We haven’t been to Brookfield Zoo very many times and each time I go I realize why. With 3 young kids, it is hard to see the whole zoo. I felt like we were skipping exhibits and it felt necessary because the kids were wiped out. If we weren’t with our friends, I’m not sure how much I would have actually enjoyed the day. We added on the dolphin show to our entrance fee and went to the 11:30 show. It was a nice show with music, commentary, and the dolphins were fun to watch. The show at Shedd Aquarium is better, but this one was still good. Overall, if you want to see animals and don’t mind walking, you could have a great time. If you have small children, a smaller zoo could offer the same or better experience. The kids had a good time, the adults had good conversation, and we didn’t lose anyone, so it was a good day!


Travel Plans

Right now, the next travel posts will be a trip to Cozumel, Mexico in December. With me, you can never be too sure that another one won’t pop up before that, but we’ll see. That will actually be a vacation and not a trip. It will be a lot of sitting around, swimming, and playing on the beach. It will be great fun!

Friday, June 19, 2009

It was our last day of driving. We first started out with some breakfast which was included. There were waffles, yogurt, pastries, cereal, and fruit. We all ate and then Derek and Abby waited until 9:00 to go swimming. While they swam, Dad filled up the van with gas and I got our things packed up. We left at about 10:00am and made it to the Ohio/Indiana border when we stopped at Burger King for lunch. Everything went very smoothly until we got to within about 10 minutes of passing over I55. There was construction and I don’t know what all, and traffic was backed up and pretty much at a stop for MILES! We got on the right shoulder and drove to the next exit, which Derek found on the map would lead to Rt. 6. We got on Rt.6 and didn’t drive very far when we hit more stand still traffic. It didn’t clear up until after we passed the I55 ramps. We finally started moving and got back on I80 at Morris. It was around 5:00 when we pulled into our driveway. It had been a wonderful trip, but we were all glad to be done driving. Mom and Dad stayed the night and headed home the next morning. Abby and Cade both cried when they left. Cade said, “Um-uh, um-uh, um-uhhhh!” Abby cried for about 10 minutes until I finally got her distracted with some painting. They got spoiled getting to see them every day and really miss all the time together.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

We left the Crowne Plaza early and headed west. It was a long day of driving and except for stopping for lunch and a rest stop, we just drove like heck. Streetsboro, Ohio was our last night’s stop at the Wingate by Wyndham. It was a nice hotel and we got it pretty cheap. Derek, Dad, Abby, and Cade went swimming and then we walked next door to Ruby Tuesday. I have never been to a Ruby Tuesday before and it was so good. The salad bar was amazing. This time Abby decided on a cookie for dessert and the cookie delivery guy hadn’t delivered the cookies. So, she ended up with a chocolate sundae. Go figure. Cade refused to go to sleep that night and Abby zonked out early. I went to Mom and Dad’s room to play some cards while Derek tried to get Cade to sleep and stayed with the kids in our room.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I knew it was going to be difficult to top our previous touring day, but today was the day we had tickets to go to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. We drove to Liberty State Park in Jersey City, which was only about 20 minutes from our hotel. We did not have to wait in any lines, made it through airport type security with ease (except that I lost my little swiss army knife keychain- I loved that thing!) and boarded the ferry. After about 15 minutes of taking pictures and walking around on deck, we headed out toward Ellis Island. I found it to be interesting, but the kids were not very interested and they were making it difficult to take any time to really look around. So, I mostly kept moving and just looked at pictures and items on display instead of reading all the signs. Oh, who am I kidding? That is pretty much what I do anyway. Well, we missed the 10:00 ferry by about 10 minutes, so we found a nice shady spot with a bench and the kids ran around in the grass. The next ferry pulled out at 10:40 and we were on our way to the Statue of Liberty. In retrospect, we probably should have skipped Ellis Island and gone on the way back (although I’m not sure how that would work with the ferries) because by the time we got to the Statue, it was pretty busy. Ferries also leave from Battery Park in NYC, so there were quite a few people there. We had advance tickets that allowed us entry in the statue, although we would have only been able to go to the top of the base. We found the line and I knew instantly that I didn’t care that much. I said I would take the kids and eat and walk around if everyone else wanted to wait in line and go up. Mom and Dad both opted to come with me, but Derek wanted to wait it out. The rest of us went to the restaurant, ordered cheeseburgers and some pizza for Abby and ate at a nice little spot outside. We took our time and enjoyed the nice breeze. After lunch, Mom and I picked out some souvenirs in the gift shop and then we walked around the Statue. It was amazing. We made the circle, took some pictures and ended up back where we had left Derek in line. There were some dancers putting on some performances so we watched for a little bit and then Derek made his way back to where we were. Then we made one more circle around, took some more pictures, and ended up at the ferry dock. After a short wait, we boarded and were on our way back to New Jersey. We took the scenic route back to the hotel (on accident), but we made it. Dad walked to McDonald’s and brought back supper. Derek and Abby swam, kids fell asleep, and we enjoyed some more cards. It was another amazing day.

Monday, June 15, 2009

One of the drawbacks to the Crowne Plaza was that it did not include breakfast. So, we scrounged up something to eat and then were on our way to the Elizabeth train station. About a half hour later, we were at New York’s Penn Station. We decided to take the subway out to Flushing Meadows, where the tennis US Open takes place. We got on the subway’s red line and thought we were heading to Times Square, where we would need to switch to the purple line when we asked and figured out we were heading south, instead of north. Oh, well. Change plans. We kept heading south and decided to see Ground Zero. As we walked, I tried to imagine what it must have been like nearly 8 years ago when the planes hit. I couldn’t even begin to wrap my head around it. A few blocks walk and we were to the hole in the city. It was strange to see such a large empty area with all the tall buildings all around it. They are starting to build new and we could view from platforms the construction work on the site. We walked all around the area and then headed back toward the subway. This time we got on the subway going the right direction and ended up at the Times Square station where to switched. On our way out to Flushing Meadows, we were entertained for a few minutes by a Mexican mariachi band. They were moving from car to car at each stop and playing for tips. Abby put a dollar in one of their hats. It was cute to see her foot tapping and Cade dancing while they played.
We got off at our stop by the New York Mets new stadium and walked on a boardwalk over to Corona Park. There was a hot dog stand and it smelled like lunch to me. So, we stopped and ate at a picnic table. Cade fell asleep instead. After lunch, we walked through the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and around the grounds of the tennis US Open. After that, we walked through the park to the Unisphere. If you’ve ever seen the US Open on tv, you would recognize it as the giant stainless steel globe that was built for the 1964 World Fair. It was pretty impressive. The kids played at a little playground, we got Cade a hot dog, and then it was time to get back on the subway and then the train back to Elizabeth station.
We ordered Perkin’s for supper and Dad walked to pick it up in the pouring rain. Yes, it rained about 15 minutes after we got back to the hotel. Luckily Perkins was only at the end of the block. We ate in the room and then Derek and the kids went swimming again. I took Cade up to the room and Mom and I shared a piece of fudgy wudgy chocolate cake from the cafe. Another night of cards after the kids fell asleep.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

We woke up to a rainy morning, but a wonderful breakfast. After breakfast Derek and Abby went swimming one last time in the warm salt water pool. I tried to gather all of our stuff and got ready to pack the car. We headed out the front door, regretting that of all the great things this hotel had to offer that an overhang in the front was not one of them. We pulled the van in as close as possible and packed up the car in the pouring rain. It reminded me how lucky we were the day before when walking all through the city of Boston that we had the most beautiful weather. It wasn’t too hot or too cold. No rain. A slight breeze. Perfect. Not so today. At least we didn’t have anything outdoors planned. We headed the car south and east and drove into Connecticut. Before the trip I was looking for things to do between Boston and NYC to help break up the drive. I didn’t come up with much and actually found some comments about how boring the drive was. It was pretty and somewhat scenic, but I didn’t come up with too much to do. I found a carousel museum in Bristol, CT and figured it would be about our best bet. It wasn’t too much out of the way and according to a site I found, there was a carousel in the park next door where the kids could have a ride for just $1. Well, we got off the interstate and drove through the little run down town and drove past the carousel museum looking for some lunch.
We found a McDonald’s and I was so happy to see it. Well, it was an old McDonald’s and not the best one I’ve ever been in, but hey…it is McDonald’s. Cade’s cheeseburger was wrapped in a cheeseburger wrapper, but didn’t have any cheese on it. Okay. Well, Abby ate a good lunch and was ready for some dessert. She decided on a hot fudge sundae. Oma (my mom) wanted one too. Dad went up to get Mom’s and I followed behind to get Abby’s. I almost lost my lunch. There was a man in there that smelled so bad that I gagged. Seriously no shower for weeks, maybe months and my guess is, no toilet paper either. To make matters worse, the ice cream machine was broken. Although, at that point, if it was for me I wouldn’t have been able to eat it anyway! Well, Abby wanted to eat ice cream. She cried. Oma was crying on the inside. So, we left. I promised Abby ice cream another time and found some little cookies in the car. Good enough.
We drove back to The New England Carousel Museum (NECM). It wasn’t quite what I was expecting. Well, maybe it is what I expected, but not what I hoped for. Anyway, my first disappointment was that the park with the carousel was actually 25 minutes away. There went that idea. It was a good thing I didn’t tell Abby she was going to get to ride it. We looked around and one of the workers gave us a personal tour. I prefer to explore on my own, but that didn’t seem to be an option. The tour guide said she had a little carousel Abby and Cade could ride. We went to a back room and it was worse than a little ride outside of KMart. Abby wasn’t too sure and after she turned it on and it was louder than an 18 wheeler, Cade was sure…that he didn’t want to be anywhere near it. We moved on and went upstairs to see fire station museum. That was actually more interesting than the carousels. I will say that I learned 2 interesting bits of information. Now, this is according to the NECM worker, but I think she knew what she was talking about. First, carousels were meant for men. In the beginning all the men would ride and women and children had to watch. Strange. And second, the first ferris wheel was meant to be a carousel and he put it together differently so that they could stack together and take up less room. That one doesn’t sound quite right to me, but that is supposedly true. You can look it up if you want to be sure 🙂 Well, we were there about an hour or so and it was time to go.
We headed south again and drove past ESPN on our way out of town. I had no idea that Bristol was where ESPN started. As we got closer to NYC, I got a little nervous about the traffic. The signs and directions we had were okay and Dad helped me navigate. Miraculously we did not get lost and made it past NYC and to Elizabeth, New Jersey right by Newark Airport. We did miss the turn to the hotel, but drove right past it on the interstate. The roads around the hotel were not easy to navigate. We drove a little further, got turned around and somehow found the hotel. We stayed at the Crowne Plaza Newark Airport. I was a little worried about this one. It was a great price at about $75 plus tax and usually that means not the best place. We walked into the lobby and I was pleasantly surprised. It was beautiful. We checked in and made our way up to our adjoining rooms on the top 11th floor. Wow. We lucked out. The hotel had a cafe, gift shop, indoor swimming pool (which turned out to be VERY cold), a fitness center (which we never used), and a computer lounge with free internet access. A lot of crew members from Continental Airlines stay there and other than that it was mostly business men. There weren’t many kids or tourists around. We ordered some supper from the cafe and ate in the room. After supper, Derek and the kids went swimming while Mom and I watched. It was cold, but the kids didn’t seem to mind. I had the best piece of white chocolate raspberry cheesecake from the cafe.After the kids went to sleep for the night, we played cards in Mom and Dad’s room. Adjoining rooms are the best 🙂

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The breakfast at the Element Hotel was amazing. Seriously. They had strawberry banana smoothies, pancakes, breakfast sandwiches and wraps, cereal, croissants, danishes, yogurt, fresh and dried fruit, juice, and milk. We filled up and got ready for a long day of walking. We took off for the subway (MTA) station and got there by about 9:00. We took the subway into downtown Boston and got off right by Boston Common. After checking at a visitor center, we found the red line that would lead us all through the city’s past historic sites. We walked past quite a few sites and stopped at others. The Granary Burying Ground was one of our first stops. We saw the graves of Paul Revere, Mother Goose, Samuel Adams, members of Benjamin Frankin’s family, and John Hancock. We also saw the Old State House, the site of the Boston Massacre, and Faneuil Hall. Outside Faneuil Hall, Abby saw a little boy with a balloon sword. She told me later that she wanted a little poker thing. Luckily I had seen the sword and wondered if Abby would ask about it. So we went back around to the front and got a pink sword for Abby, a blue one for Cade, and a yellow one for Derek. Really…that is what the man said. So, we hauled 3 balloon swords around Boston. We continued on to the Old North Church where the lanterns were hung. We sat in the pew boxes and then Abby and I went outside while the man finished his talk about the history of the church. That is when I knew I would never go on a Segway tour. We saw 2 women and a male tour guide riding them down a steep street right in front of the church. When one of the women got to the bottom of the hill and tried to turn, she turned too sharply and lost control of the Segway. She held onto the handle bars as the Segway spun around, bounced off the curb, and parts went flying. It was kind of wild. She regathered the pieces (reflectors, batteries, and other little plastic parts) and they were back on their way. The speech finished and we were on our way, through a local market (craziness) and then past Paul Revere’s house. We continued across the Charles River and looked for a place to eat lunch. It was about 1:00 and we hadn’t eaten yet. We found a little place by the USS Constitution. I had fish and chips and it was good. After we all ate out on the patio, we went on a boat called the USS Cassin Young. Abby said that she was the pirate on the ship. Then we marched up a hill to Bunker Hill. Derek climbed up in the steep monument while Mom, Dad, the kids, and I had a snack in the shade. After some map searching, asking for help, and asking for help again, we figured out how to get back to a convenient subway stop. We took a city bus back to Boston Common and got back on the same subway that we came in on. We got back to the hotel and ate leftovers for supper. Abby and Derek went swimming and then we played some Wii in the lobby. Boston is an amazing city and we had such a great day!
The slideshow has the pics from Boston. I haven’t figured out how to put the slideshow in the post and there were so many pictures that I thought that would be easier.